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Favorite Reads of 2022

A photo my daughter took of me because, she said, reading "is my best look."

I struggled narrowing my list to ten this year—so many great reads! It was the year of researching comparable books in the psychological thriller/horror genre, particularly relating to parenting, so that I could communicate to my agent, and then later for publishers, what I had written. These books are, for the most part, dark (shocking, I know), but all worth delving into. And, if you like any of the below, you will surely like my work.

In no particular order, my favorite reads from 2022.

1. Insomnia, by Sarah Pinborough: With good pacing, told by a single unreliable narrator--until the end--this psych horror, about a woman who can't sleep leading up to her 40th birthday, escalates believably...until the final twist, which felt a little out-of-nowhere. Still, I thought it was an interesting way to tie it all together, and I loved the unraveling narrative.

2. Notes on an Execution, by Danya Kukafka: More than one of my friends (including me) struggled with the beginning of this literary suspense--it is dark, seemingly glorifying (or maybe justifying) a psychopath's actions. At about halfway, most people feel differently about it, ending up loving its nuance and questions it raises about the making of a killer.

3. My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite: I loved this expertly crafted, subtle, well-researched darkly comedic psych thriller, which asks who is worse/more to blame, the psychopath doing the killing, or the loved one enabling her. Something is wrong with the sister, says one character, but "what's your excuse?"

4. Unsettled Ground, by Claire Fuller: Fuller is one of my favorite writers, her Bitter Orange one of my favorite books. I knew I would love this slow-burn literary suspense going into it. The protagonist is lovable the way Ove is, for her limitations and vulnerabilities.

5. What’s Done in Darkness, by Laura McHugh: This novel, about a woman who was abducted as a teen, now helping a current investigation of a remote, Kansas religious community, is the perfect balance of suspense plot and character development. It's tightly edited and well wrought. This is McHugh's fourth book, generally when writers are pressured to pump out novels quickly, their writing suffering for it, but McHugh's clean, thoughtfully crafted prose shows no signs of rushing.

6. Baby Teeth, by Zoje Stage: This psych horror, about a woman who suspects her child is a psychopath, is creepy and well written...and not for everyone. The ratings on Goodreads run the gambit! But I loved its slow tension and ambiguously moral mother.

7. A Slow Fire Burning, by Paula Hawkins: A few books came out this year with writers as the main character (Verity, The Plot), and I'm not usually a fan of them--these plots feel like plot devices, or short cuts. But Hawkins manages to downplay this trope while also making it a huge part of the story. What I loved was her reversal: the victim here was not loved by all, and as the story builds, we are left questioning our pity for him and our desire for the protagonist to find his killer.

8. The School for Good Mothers, by Jessamine Chan: This speculative suspense, about a mother who is deemed unfit to parent and who must then serve a year in a reform school for mothers, is one of the best books I've read in years. It frustrated me, angered me, raised my hopes... even triggered me to the point I thought I might not finish. I'm glad I did, even though I cried ugly tears at the end.

9. The Searcher, by Tana French: Tana French is a genius. If you like slow-burn suspense, pick up any of her many books. But this one, set in the remote hills of Ireland, has such interesting characters, I couldn't put it down.

10. Animal, by Lisa Taddeo: The prose and timing of this suspense are artful (and the reason I included this title here); though so many bad events lined up too perfectly to believe or ingest, making this book more satire than realism, I love it if I include it in the same satiric or pulp vein as My Sister the Serial Killer, above.


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